The Perseverance of Paul
We’re republishing this as part of our 25th anniversary series featuring favorite stories from our archives. This story by Virginia Tobias appeared in ANM’s Voices in the Wilderness magazine in 1998. Enjoy!
Coming slowly down the mountain in the darkness, he knew that he was near a village. He got off his bicycle, unrolled his mat and spread it on the ground. In the morning, the villagers would see him and he would have another opportunity to tell them about Jesus.
As he wearily lay down, he sensed that there was something under his mat—perhaps an old bicycle tire—but it was too dark to see. As he lay there under the stars, he reflected on many things. He fretted about his wife and five children. Had their bout with malaria subsided? If God had called him to the Saura tribe, why had ten years gone by with no converts? Had he misunderstood God’s will? Sometimes he became so discouraged that he was ready to give it all up. Only the children of the villagers listened to him.
Narayan Paul had gradually put the Gospel into songs; as the children gathered around him, he would sing and dance, teaching them stories of Jesus. He had worn their native clothing, eaten their food, and he had learned their language, yearning to bring them freedom from their drunken stupor and their fear of demons.
Tonight as he remembered the difference that Jesus Christ had made in his own life, Narayan also remembered why he so desperately wanted others to know the peace which he had found.
Civil war inside
Born into a deeply religious Hindu family, he was the middle child of five. His father had died when Narayan was very young, and perhaps because he had his mother’s coloring and temperament, he was her favorite child. She chose him to be the priest of the family.
That required his rising at four each morning, taking a ceremonial bath, spending several hours in his religious books, then going to the temple. There he blessed the fruits and flowers which others brought to offer to lord Shiva.
How clearly Narayan could recall the civil war that had been going on in his own heart. “I knew that though my people thought I was a holy man, yet I was full of carnality inside—I was miserable!”
Sharing this deep frustration with his mother, she responded by calling for the guru to come to their home. “He will help you find peace.” The guru arrived, and was seated. Friends brought flowers and fruit in his honor. Coconuts were opened and the liquid poured over the guru’s feet into a brass dish. “Anyone who drinks of this liquid will be forgiven of his sins.” Narayan Paul looked dubiously at his mother, but she nodded that he should drink.
Taking a sip, nothing changed—the civil war raged on!
Lost and found
It was only when he attended a Christian college many miles away that he discovered the answer to his heart’s cry.
A Christian lady had paid his expenses so that he might attend this school; he left in spite of his mother’s fears that he would learn about that foreign God from America! Indeed, though he studied hard and desired to know nothing of this Christian God, a classmate invited him to an evangelistic meeting. Not wanting to disappoint his friend, he agreed to go. The message was so clearly proclaimed: “Lost and Found.” He recognized the condition of his heart, and through tears of repentance, he was found by the Good Shepherd—and experienced at last the peace that had eluded him for so long.
He graduated from college, and returned home. His mother was angry that he no longer worshipped lord Shiva. How could he betray his own god for a foreign one? Ultimately, his mother spoke for the villagers, when she told him he must make a choice: give up this new belief—or leave the community. Sleepless, and with an aching heart, he searched the Scriptures throughout the night, discovering this passage: “Unless one is willing to leave father and mother…he is not worthy to be called my disciple.” Narayan pack this few belongings and tearfully left home, telling his grieving family goodbye.
Trudging many miles, he arrived in Calcutta, where he found his brother near death. All the witch doctors, all the incantations, all the prayers had been to no avail; he was weak and dying. Narayan told him about Jesus and asked permission to call on His all-powerful name. What did he have to lose? Soon after Narayan’s simple prayer in Jesus’ name, his brother was up and walking. He continued to gain strength until he was finally able to make the journey back to his family. Arriving home, he shared with his mother and siblings the miracle Jesus had done for him when Narayan had prayed for his healing.
Narayan remembered trying to find work; he remembered sleeping in the park under a bench, reading his Bible beneath the street lights. With gratitude, he remembered the man who finally enabled him to buy food and clothes—and ultimately a place to live.
He remembered than many months later, he proudly invited his mother to come and see what God had done for him. She came, warmly expressing her love for Narayan. She stayed three months, giving him an opportunity to share many things with her. Most importantly, he was able to remind her of what she believed a true guru to be: one who is holy and who can forgive sins. He then explained that there is only one—and His name is Jesus. His heart had overflowed with joy when his beloved mother was ready to invite Jesus into her life, seeking His forgiveness for her sins.
Several years later, a marriage had been arranged for him. He was married to Grace, the daughter of an evangelist. Though they had never seen each other, each received the other as God’s provision. Grace was grateful to be the wife of a man who could provide for their needs.
Still wakeful under the night sky, Narayan turned on his mat. He recalled the burden that God had placed on his heart for the Saura Tribe. He had cried out to God to bring salvation to this illiterate tribe who believed that every tree and rock was a god to be feared and worshipped. Yes, this burden was what had finally brought Narayan to the moment when he hear God’s still small voice: “If you care so much for these Saura people, go to them yourself and take the Good News.”
His wife, Grace, had struggled with the thought of returning to a life of poverty, but she finally had a change of heart. “I will not be a stumbling block if God is calling—I will go with you.”
Narayan stirred restlessly as the dawn began to break over the mountain peaks. When had he finally drifted off? He could hear the children coming as they spied his bicycle. He stood up and stretched, reaching for his mat. The children gasped as he began to roll it up, for there where he had spent the night was a poisonous snake. One fateful bit, and Narayan Paul would have been dead.
The children knew the danger and their parents understood even more clearly that such a thing could not be—unless the God which this smiling man was always talking about was truly all-powerful!
Our beloved Narayan Paul was a refreshing presence in our ANM offices [once] during a visit. Wearing his native garb, he would take his scarf from his neck and wind it as a turban around his head. He would then pull up his “skirt” and tuck it into his belt before he proceeded to sing and dance to the rhythm of his wooden castanets.
Many years ago in India, he watched a young calf walk away from its mother. Seeing the mother follow her calf, the Lord revealed to Narayan the wisdom of teaching the Saura children. Through songs and stories, he lovingly shared the Good News with them, and eventually he saw the parents follow. This music now rings through the hills as Jesus Christ is worshipped in over 35 churches among the Saura tribes!
ANM continues to partner with Gaweylon to transform lives in Tibet and the surrounding region.
Twenty-five years after we started partnering with native missionaries to reach the unreached, the work continues, and we are closer than ever to seeing the Gospel proclaimed and lived out among every people group in the world. Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel!
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